Most of us take for granted the ability to pick up a book or magazine and begin reading. However, for people with vision problems brought on by aging eyes or with certain physical disabilities, reading is a lost activity. According to the National Federation of the Blind, more than 3.5 percent of seniors 65 and older are legally blind, and they estimate that number will increase as the Boomer generation ages.
The Talking Book Program, coordinated by the Library of Congress National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, provides free materials and playback equipment to anyone who is unable to read or use standard print materials. Guided by a network of public libraries and local agencies, registered users receive and return tapes and playback equipment free through the US Postal Service.
Talking books are unabridged cassette recordings made by professional narrators. More than a thousand new titles are added each year to the collection of more than 400,000 titles in all subject areas. In addition, many popular magazines reflecting a broad range of tastes and interests are available, including American Heritage, Good Housekeeping, Sports Illustrated, Reader’s Digest, Newsweek, Ebony and Guideposts.
The cassette playback equipment is designed for someone with vision or physical impairments to use. The buttons are raised and brightly color-coded. Accessories, such as button extenders, are available. The talking books are specially designed, 4-sided tapes that allow more of a book to fit on one tape, eliminating the need to flip the tape to continue a story.
The State Library of Ohio coordinates Ohio’s Talking Book Program while the Regional Libraries for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, located in Cleveland and Cincinnati, supply books and magazines on cassette tapes or in Braille.
Applications for talking book services are available from the State Library or from many of Ohio’s public libraries. An application is also available on the State Library Web site, www.library.ohio.gov.
For more information about the Talking Book Program, contact the State Library of Ohio toll free at 1-800-686-1531.